Last night I dreamed I stole a can of beer from a gas station convenience store. Let me be clear: I don’t like or drink beer. Maybe I don’t like beer because my father drank enough Schlitz, Old Milwaukee, and Black Label beer to float a boat in Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is after all, a body of water not far from where I grew up in northern Indiana, and very near the Wisconsin breweries where the beer was fermented.
In my dream what made me feel most guilty was not that I’d stolen a can of beer, but the lie I told after that. I tried to explain away my thievery to the gas station owner by saying I wouldn’t have nabbed the beer if the clerk hadn’t refused to give me the diet Coke I’d purchased. The dream gods decided I shouldn’t get away with my lie. There was a video camera mounted in the corner of the store and in my dream I saw my grainy black and white image (I’m not sure if I dream in color—but the video of me was definitely in black and white) stealthily taking a beer—and a beer only—from the cooler. The next scene in my dream was me walking away, scot-free from my crime, out the store and through an attached garage—where several mechanics were working under my baby blue Prius as it was hoisted in the air. Dreams can be notoriously digressive.
Whence cometh these dreams of such perfidy and mendacious behavior? Does my subconscious know something about me that I don’t? At the core am I a thieving, sneaky, liar? The latest theory about dreams is that they don’t actually mean anything, for which I’m eternally grateful considering all the times I’ve dreamed I was standing in the middle of a high school hallway disturbingly naked. Dreams are supposed to be just random thoughts and imagery pulled from the subconscious and pieced together in a story—or not. Some people can’t make any sense of what they dream.
The thing that intrigues me about this theory is that I dreamed about stealing and lying. Why was stealing and lying floating around in my nighttime neural circuitry? I’ve always believed myself to be fairly honest but when I think about it, how honest am I really? Apparently, the average person lies a couple of times a day without even batting an eyelash. It becomes second nature. Some of this is harmless “white lies” or lies by omission. What people say, or don’t say, to get through their day more smoothly. Other lying is more deliberate and destructive. Some of our dishonesty we dismiss with: “Well, that may be true for you—but it’s not true for me.” Relativity and post-modernism birthed an unintended consequence: it gave us all an excuse for lying.
Probably I dreamed about stealing and lying because I’m a news junkie and though all politicians lie, our current president has taken the practice to new levels. Growing up, parents and teachers, adults around me, could shame me when I told a lie. Today, “alternative truth” seems almost fashionable. In fact, I just read that the New Orleans Saints football fans, since their questionable loss to the Los Angeles Rams, have taken to calling the NFL: “alternative truth” football.
I understand some of the president’s supporters dismiss his lies by calling them “puffery”—as in an airy nothingness that doesn’t mean anything really, like the feathery head of a dandelion that once you blow on it, falls apart in the breeze. But the feathery head of a dandelion is full of seeds, seeds that can take root. In our current political climate, alternative facts (or lies) are distributed into our culture in long chains of disinformation like that old party game: Telephone. Lying itself becomes entrenched and validated. There is something jittery-making when our leadership throws truth out the window like a discarded Big Mac box. We’re littering our landscape, our mind with all this refuse. I long for the clean-up crew. I long for a good, dreamless night. When’s the next election?